This year is a golden year for VisitScotland as we turn 50 on 25 July 2019 - the date when the Scottish Tourist Board was created. We want to celebrate 50 years of golden moments with the tourism industry in 2019 with this anniversary allowing us to look fondly at the past while fixing our gaze toward the future.
Whilst this is VisitScotland’s own milestone, it’s very much an anniversary to be shared with our industry colleagues and partners. We spoke to Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland's Self-Caterers (ASSC) about the changes the sector has seen over the past 50 years.
Do you have any interesting stories you can tell of your time in tourism?
“2018 was a great year for me professionally; I was delighted to make the top 100 Women in Tourism list for 2018 and that was followed by ASSC achieving a Thistle Award for Working Together for Tourism. To compliment that Mansfield House won the European Holiday Home Association’s Award for Best Pet Friendly Holiday Home in Europe 2018!”
Tell us about your career in tourism
“I have worked in tourism for 16 years, as owner of Mansfield House in Argyll, alongside this I have been actively working with the local community development association, local area destination marketing organisation and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.”
What are the main changes within the self-catering sector over the last 50 years?
“50 years ago, self-catering operators would put an ad in their local tourist board magazine, perhaps the Scottish Tourist Board’s Main Guide and even their Overseas Guide if you were feeling flush - and that was about it – you got on with your Christmas dinner and waited for the phone to ring, or letters to arrive – which they did.
“Bookings were taken Saturday to Saturday in the industry, with many people bringing their own linen as standard behaviour. Visitors were astonished that they did not have to clean the place (to their standard) on arrival.
“ASSC was set up 40 years ago to promote quality. At the time, self-catering was a hit or miss affair with quality very variable indeed. There was a tradition of filling cottages with (probably a bit tatty) brown furniture out of the big hoose and thinking that was OK. Several more enlightened businesses got together to do things better and tell the world.
“Nowadays, visitors expect something better than their own homes. Quality and comfort being paramount and a personal welcome and taking time to talk, is increasingly important in the depersonalised digital world.”
And finally, what do you think lies ahead?
“Self-catering / short-term rental is a great sector with a stable future, but has recently found itself facing big challenges, thrown up by the fast growth of the Collaborative Economy and the desire of travellers to ‘live like a local’.
“These challenges to our sector must be resolved. We continue to believe that any policy decision is underpinned by data, and as an association, working with other tourism bodies such as VisitScotland, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality, we continue to deliver as much data as possible to inform the local authorities and Scottish Government. Given that we live at a time in which wrong or inaccurate information is easier than ever to spread and truth is at a premium, we continue to try to address some of the inaccuracies surrounding our industry and set the record straight.
“In order to challenge some of the prevailing narratives, the ASSC commissioned Frontline Consultants to produce an evidence-base to investigate these criticisms head-on and demonstrate the sector’s impact on key areas across Scotland in 2018. Far More Than Just Houses: The Benefits of the Short-Term Rental Sector to Scotland brings together serious research to demonstrate the real impact of the industry in Scotland. I am proud that we are the organisation to have produced and funded this.
“I do not believe that we have ever faced such challenges as a sector; but as an Association, we are fighting fit and fighting strong. With the continued support of our membership, we have the determination and drive to navigate the various challenges we face. The market continues to show that self-catering is the holiday of choice. Scotland maintains its place as one of the leading destinations in the world. Tourism brings £6 billion to the Scottish economy. We are an integral part of that offering.
“Self-catering is a vital component of the tourism industry and currently supports approximately 15,000 jobs, attracts £723 million in consumer spending, £470 million of which is spent by visitors to Scotland.